The Village Store will rise again

The new owner envisions that this is "for the community" and, as such, is open to input.

The Village Store will rise again
New owner John Sayarath makes notes while visiting the Village Store after the real estate closing.

A buzz of excitement surrounded the Thetford Center Village Store on Friday, June 14th. The store, which stood shuttered for about two years, has acquired a new owner — John Sayarath — and there he was, fresh from the real estate closing.

He was immediately greeted by Michelle, the Thetford Center postmistress, followed soon by Town Clerk Tracy Borst, Assistant Clerk Martie Betts, Town Manager Brian Story, and Arthur Kahn, who runs the Thetford Arthouse Cinema series. There were congratulations and well-wishes all around.

John is a soft-spoken and gentle individual who had a long-time family medicine practice and currently teaches science at the St Johnsbury Academy. He is also a writer and an avid tennis player and is the tennis coach at the Academy. He's been a resident of Vermont for many years in the Northeast Kingdom town of Barton and then in St. Johnsbury.

He had been drawn to the Village Store ever since he and his late wife had stopped there to buy a drink several years ago. Right there and then he had experienced a "certain feeling" about the place. He had looked into purchasing it in 2023, but then withdrew. But he regretted that decision, and when the store came back on the market in 2024, he took the plunge.

It is clear that John's vision for the store is one with community at its center. He would like to offer opportunities for community people to come together at the store to share their writings, poetry, and music. Selling locally authored books and artwork is another interest. And once the store is up and running, he would like to have an outdoor barbeque making "authentic food" in the warmer months.

One of his first comments to the group was that he wanted to offer "very good coffee" that would be freshly brewed on demand. And in line with his South Asian Lao background, he would include various teas as well. He envisions a "really nice general store for the community" that would include good quality, healthy offerings, as well as prepared foods to go. Wine and beer were also mentioned.

Arthur Kahn, who was listening intently, offered some suggestions based on his own career in retail as a liquor store owner. The barbeque would definitely be an attraction, as plenty of traffic passes the store and people would see the smoke. Things like that would make the store unique. Regarding merchandise, it would be a good idea for the store to stock "100 to 150 basic items'' and then add upscale products. Prepared foods would require a licensed off-site kitchen since there is no room at the store. However, the State is very helpful when it comes to navigating public health regulations.  

In terms of the physical building, John would like to open up the access that once existed between the store and the post office. He envisions eventually converting the upstairs to a small apartment for himself so he could stay on the premises when working there. Otherwise he would try to retain the character of the store while cleaning it up and renovating the building. He chose to register the name "Thetford Village Store," thus keeping it close to the original name.

John displays a historic photo of the Village Store.

Before he made the purchase, he had the building inspected and is aware of the many issues inherent in this historic structure — originally a corn crib — including that it has no foundation. Arthur commented that he was likely to "find things" once renovation begins. 

John inherits some business sense from his part-Chinese mother. And his daughter is very enthusiastic about the store. He envisions that this is "for the community" and, as such, is open to input. He is looking forward to this exciting new chapter in his life.

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